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Cisco says almost all workloads will be cloud based within 3 years

News Analysis
Feb 05, 20184 mins
Cisco SystemsCloud ComputingData Center

Cisco says by 2021, 94 percent of all workloads will run in some form of cloud environment. Even on-premises workloads will run in a virtualized environment.

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In its latest Cisco Global Cloud Index (2016-2021), the networking giant predicts that by 2021, 94 percent of all workloads will run in some form of cloud environment and that dedicated servers will be a distinct minority.

That 94 percent covers both public and private cloud scenarios, which means even in an on-premises scenario, almost all workloads are going to be run in a virtualized environment. The days where a server is dedicated to one workload are rapidly drawing to a close.

“We use the definition of one workload or instance with one physical server,” said Thomas Barnett, director, Cisco Service Provider forecast and trends. “In virtual scenarios, we’re seeing one workload with multiple virtual machines and containers. Based on growth in public cloud, we’ve overcome some of the barriers of adoption, such as cost and security and simplicity of deploying of these services.”

The remaining 6 percent of workloads that are not virtualized are highly specialized applications, usually the most mission critical, that need dedicated hardware for 24/7 operation. In some cases, Barnett said, some organizations will be hard pressed to move because they need the control or have that resource managed by someone else.

But even high-compute projects such as data warehouses and business intelligence, which chew through data at full CPU speed and usually aren’t good cloud material, are moving to virtualized environments, he added.

Why cloud use is increasing

One thing fueling the drive to the cloud is the explosion in SaaS workloads. By 2021, 75 percent, compared with 16 percent for IaaS workloads and compute instances, down from 21 percent in 2016 and 9 percent will be PaaS workloads and compute instances, up from 8 percent in 2016.

One reason traffic is moving to the cloud is there is a lot of it and the amount of traffic is growing fast — and it needs the elasticity the cloud offers. Cisco predicts data center traffic will triple by 2021, with traffic in North America growing from 2.8 zettabytes per year now to 8 zettabytes by 2021. The Asia/Pacific region will grow the fastest, from 2.1 zettabytes this year to 6.7 zettabytes in 2021.

This growth will be fueled by a combination of improved security and the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). In the past, Cisco notes, security concerns have been a major barrier to cloud adoption. Improvements in data center governance and data control have helped to minimize enterprise risk and better protect consumer information.

As for IoT, the growth of IoT applications such as smart cars, smart cities, connected health and digital utilities requires scalable computing and storage solutions. That means more data centers and edge computing to handle it all. By 2021, Cisco expects IoT connections to reach 13.7 billion, up from 5.8 billion in 2016.

Big growth in hyperscale data centers

That means big growth in hyperscale data centers, the massive data centers that are the size of multiple football stadiums with tens of thousands of servers and often their own power source, like a hydroelectric plant or wind turbines. Most are operated by the largest cloud providers, such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

Cisco predicts hyperscale data centers will go from 27 percent share of total data center servers to 53 percent by 2021, and it says the number of hyperscale data centers will grow from 338 in 2016 to 628 in 2021. By 2021, they will account for 69 percent of all data center processing power, 65 percent of all data stored, and 55 percent of all data center traffic.

This growth comes from both business and consumer applications. For consumers, streaming video, social networking, and internet search are among the most popular cloud applications, with video really accounting for a lot of the traffic. By 2021, video streaming will account for 10 percent of traffic within data centers and 85 percent of traffic from data centers to end users.

For business users, enterprise resource planning (ERP), collaboration, analytics, and other digital enterprise applications represent leading growth areas. In particular, big data is going to get a lot bigger. Big data will account for 403 exabytes by 2021, up almost 8-fold from 25 exabytes in 2016. Big data will represent 30 percent of all data stored in data centers by 2021, up from 18 percent in 2016.

Andy Patrizio is a freelance journalist based in southern California who has covered the computer industry for 20 years and has built every x86 PC he’s ever owned, laptops not included.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ITworld, Network World, its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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